In-Flight: Delhi to JFK Twilight

March 3rd, 2004

In-Flight: Delhi to JFK

Twilight Zone

An older lady, about 60 years old, sits next to me. She inquires politely about my path. I explain Hare Krishna.

I mark that she has an uncanny resemblance to the German wife of a friend in Vrndavana?an older Indian gentleman who worked with me in the gurukula.

The lady asks advice. She is a yoga teacher in her native Stuttgart, Germany, and has just spent two months studying yoga at the Sivananda Asrama in Hrisikesh. She is now contemplating retiring. Should she retire to India? She doubts that a German lady could tolerate a women?s role in their monkish asrama or the poverty and disorder she?d see outside its gates. I politely respond. The conversation ends.

I couldn?t help but notice how exact the resemblance of this lady was to my friend?s wife, even down to her smile and manner of speech. And both come from Stuttgart!

As I shuffle down the crowded aisle to disembark, I hear her polite voice behind me. ?Swamiji, what is your name??

?Dhanurdhara Swami,? I turn and reply.

?Oh. Mine is Yasoda,? she responds.

That?s my friend?s wife?s name! I want to shout in disbelief, but manage to keep the curious coincidence to myself.

Suddenly I hear Rod Serling?s spine-chilling voice?You are now entering the twilight zone!?followed by the eerie theme song to his show. His TV science fiction thriller was a favorite of our youth for its intriguing paranormal stories. I guess my chance meeting with Yasoda invoked my forgotten memory of The Twilight Zone, since it had some of the bizarre components of a typical episode.

My mind continues to race: What does this coincidence mean? Is there a message here? Is Krishna telling me something? Could it have anything to do with the fact that my friend and his German wife have been deeply on my mind since I left Vrndavana yesterday?

Over 25 years ago, my friend gave up a successful engineering business in Germany to join ISKCON-Zurich. A few years later he brought his wife and younger children to settle in Vrndavana. They haven?t left since, although their children have long settled in the West.

My friend, however, is now in his seventies. He requires medical attention and personal care for himself and his wife. On their son?s request, they are returning to Europe under their care?forced to sadly acknowledge that they will never see Vrndavana again.

On my final day in Vrndavana I went to see them. We both realized that it would be our last meeting. Just the thought of a dedicated devotee never seeing Vrndavana again in this lifetime disturbed me. More upsetting, however, was that it was a final goodbye to a friend. It hurt. It was a painful reminder of the temporality of our worldly relationships, reminders that hit me more as I advance in age.

As I walk toward the exit I continue to try to make sense of it all:

Okay. I was thinking of my friend, but this meeting with the replica Yasoda is not just a product of my mind. I can see her. She?s right behind me. What does this mean? Why is it happening?

I continue: Could it be that Krishna arranged all of this for this story to be written, that a special message lurks here? But what is that message? Don?t leave Vrndavana at any cost? Be practical in spiritual life even if it means leaving Vrndavana? The shocking temporality and tragedy of this world, where we see friends for the last time?a world where everyone we love will someday be gone?

I make the final turn to the exit and pass the last have-a-nice-day stewardess, but my mind is still reeling. Perhaps the message is that you?re such a neophyte that, even after 30 years of rigid Krishna consciousness practice, The Twilight Zone is still in your brain. As I step off the plane into New York, I again absurdly hear the show?s theme music?dun dun dun dun; dun dun dun dun ?and come to a conclusion.

This episode of the traveling swami will hopefully end one day with the sonorous voice of my dear friend Krishna gently awakening me from the nightmare that I am anything other than His servant.

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